Wednesday, April 30, 2008

PZ Myers, with more on how he was suckered into appearing in Expelled.
We were not indulging in metaphysical speculation — we were actually addressing the stated purpose of our interviews, which we were told were specifically about the intersection of science and religion, not about the scientific validity of intelligent design. We would have given very different interviews if we'd been asked about ID; that's a subject both of us can discuss at length without mentioning religion at all, as the primary objection to it is that it isn't science, and good science refutes it. It's a little annoying to be constantly told that we were straying from the central premise of this movie, when we were actually doing our best to address the subject of the nonexistent movie for which we were told we were being interviewed. [bold emphasis mine]
The most damaging thing about this propaganda film, is that now even among scientists, there is misunderstanding, a misunderstanding that was deliberately intended by the cynics and spinmeisters behind this production. "We sit in high places and fan discord" ought to be the motto of the ID movement. Along with "Science leads you to killing people."

When Christians deliberately make cynical arguments in bad faith, they scandalize their religion. This film will haunt creationists I hope until the day the ID movement dwindles out of existence. Saint Augustine once said "God doesn't need my lie." No, but I would venture that He does suffer for it.

Speaking of Augustine, this might be a good time to flash his lament.
Dan Kennedy on Roger Clemens' latest woes:

I'm a Red Sox fan, and Clemens had some great years in Boston, including his astonishing 1986 season, when he nearly led the Red Sox to a World Series victory. But there were questions about his heart even then, with Clemens and then-manager John McNamara carrying on a years-long dispute over whether Clemens had asked to come out of the disastrous sixth game.

My enduring memory of Clemens, though, dates back to the 1990 playoffs. Clemens was facing his nemesis, Oakland A's ace Dave Stewart. And he started yelling at the umpire, who threw him out of the game in the second inning, enabling an Oakland sweep. Clemens's performance was gutless, but at least he didn't let Stewart beat him. He beat himself instead.

Greatest pitcher ever or not, Clemens has never been the one guy you wanted out there in a big game. The Red Sox would have to wait for pitchers like Pedro Martínez, Curt Schilling and Josh Beckett to learn what clutch pitching was all about.

The Mindy McCready story may be unfair, but it's hard for me to work up much sympathy. Besides, Clemens has bigger things to worry about. If the perjury investigation leads to criminal charges, then he's more likely to wind up in prison than in baseball's Hall of Fame. It's quite a comedown, but he brought it all on himself.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Science Leads You to Killing People?
My freshman year in college was when I decided I wanted to write about history and science. In the spring semester of that year, I was taking the second half of Owen Gingerich's celebrated Science A-17 (The Astronomical Perspective) as part of my core curriculum. Gingerich, who most recently authored this little gem, was an indefatigable lecturer. Alums from his former years would show up on the day he gave his lecture on Newton, just to see a guy in his 50s climb onto a home made rocket and blast himself across the stage to demonstrate Newton's Third Law.

One of the requirements of the class was to view some documentaries during selected week nights in the Science Center. And sometime during that semester, I saw three or four episodes from Jacob Bronowski's Ascent of Man. There was one episode I will never forget, and fortunately someone posted it to Youtube.

It bears watching again in light of the hideous comment made by Ben Stein, as he's doing the media tour for Expelled.

Ben Stein minced no words in his interview with TBN: 'Science leads you to killing people.'

No, it's actually something else that leads to killing, and Brownowski was far more eloquent:

I like to think that one of the reasons Stein's movie is bombing (it plummeted over 50% this past weekend, according to Box Office Mojo), even among its carefully targeted audiences, is because the large number of Christians out there, Evangelicals and Catholics (and Mennonites like Professor Gingerich) and other denominations, who go to work every day as doctors, nurses, technicians, school teachers, pharmacists, geologists, botanists, and engineers of all stripes, who utilize science every day of their working lives to help people from all walks of life, are frankly insulted by the claptrap peddled by Stein.

This clip is for them and all people of good faith and good will.

UPDATE: Derb weighs in.
Darwin Catholic: "I try to keep a wary eye on explanations that are too ideologically convenient." Amen.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Allen MacNeill, with a great piece on Lynn Margulies:
It's very gratifying to see Lynn Margulis finally getting the recognition that she deserves. As the originator of the serial endosymbiosis theory (SET) for the origin of eukaryotes, Lynn's work provides an excellent example of how ID should (but currently doesn't) proceed. During the late 1960s, Lynn published a series of revolutionary papers on the evolution of eukaryotic cells, culminating in her landmark book Symbiosis and Cell Evolution, in which she carefully laid out the empirical evidence supporting the theory that mitochondria, choloroplasts, and undulapodia (eukaryotic cilia and flagella) were once free living bacteria (purple sulfur bacteria, cyanobacteria, and spirochaetes, respectively).

Her theory was greeted with contempt and scorn by almost all evolutionary biologists (sound familiar?), who believed at the time that all eukaryotic cellular organelles evolved by gradual elaboration of invaginations of the plasma membrane. But Lynn didn't give up, or continue to simply restate her original theory (sound familiar?).

Friday, April 25, 2008

I'm flattered (and somewhat humbled) that Mark Shea (who's been blogging a heckuva lot longer than I have) gives a rat's behind what I think about anything.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The "Expelled" producers are being sued for copyright infringement.

Ironic. They had enough money to pay extras to fill a theatre at Pepperdine to look like real students listening to Ben Stein, but they were too cheap to pay a license fee for John Lennon's music.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Waiting for Godot Rose. Pretty funny...

Leon Wieseltier opens with the sound of church bells, an invitation to think about more than music:
I was reminded of the evolution of my relationship to the ravishments of other traditions when I read about the controversy at Harvard about the broadcast of the Muslim call to prayer in Harvard Yard. It was sounded from the steps of Widener Library--where a great Jewish scholar once spent many decades in the groundbreaking study of early Islamic philosophy--for several days during Islam Awareness Week. (Is anybody not aware of Islam?) The sound of the adhan in the quads startled many people, and provoked ferocious opposition. An editorial in the Crimson denounced it as an infringement upon the liberty of others, who were forced to listen to an affirmation of a faith in which they do not believe. What troubled the eloquent authors of the editorial was the text of the summons, which included the words "I bear witness that there is no lord except God" and "I bear witness that Mohammed is the Messenger of God." "This puts the adhan in a different class of expression than, say, the sounding of church bells or the displaying of a menorah," they maintained, "because it publicly advances a theological position." Indeed it does, though it is important to add that almost all of the alleged victims of this aural coercion could not understand a word of it. For all they knew, they were listening to a recipe for kanafi. And the menorah is, in its fiery silence, a religious symbol of a religious holiday, even if most American Jews prefer to think of the occasion historically or commercially. Is the sight of it, therefore, an optical coercion? As for church bells, see above. Moreover, the secular integrity of the setting was long ago surrendered. In the middle of it stands an imposing Christianish chapel, which, despite its hospitality to people of all faiths, could never be mistaken for a synagogue or a mosque. Years ago I was among a company of Jews--I think it included the dean of the faculty, though I may be mistaken--who festively carried a Torah through Harvard Yard, and this was no more "halacha at Harvard" than the adhan is "sharia at Harvard." Even before there was multiculturalism, there was respect for human variety and pleasure in it. An open civil space will always be cacophonous. There will be affirmation and alienation, sometimes even within a single individual; and there will be indifference, which is in its way one of the accomplishments of pluralism. When I was at college, the arrival of spring was reliably announced by the defiant blasting of "Sympathy for the Devil" from dorm-room loudspeakers turned toward the campus. I did not share the theological position that it advanced, but I was exhilarated. In a Dionysian frenzy I played frisbee until dark.

Coming Soon! Just got my advance copy of Cory Doctorow's new book, Little Brother. If you want some advance buzz on the book, start here. Tor Senior Editor Patrick Nielsen Hayden was kind enough to send me an advance copy--even though (as usual) I was late to the sign-up.

This one's cutting to the front of my pile. Will blog about it when I've finished it.

The only humble contribution I can make to earth day is to note that a Hibiscus we were given a year ago not only survived the winter, but is blooming again.

(Of course, we had some help.)

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Absolutely Priceless...

The Times pretty much nails it:

Prominent evolutionary biologists, like the author and Oxford professor Richard Dawkins — accurately identified on screen as an “atheist” — are provided solely to construct, in cleverly edited slices, an inevitable connection between Darwinism and godlessness. Blithely ignoring the vital distinction between social and scientific Darwinism, the film links evolution theory to fascism (as well as abortion, euthanasia and eugenics), shamelessly invoking the Holocaust with black-and-white film of Nazi gas chambers and mass graves.

Every few minutes familiar — and ideologically unrelated — images interrupt the talking heads: a fist-shaking Nikita S. Khrushchev; Charlton Heston being subdued by a water hose in “Planet of the Apes.” This is not argument, it’s circus, a distraction from the film’s contempt for precision and intellectual rigor. This goes further than a willful misunderstanding of the scientific method. The film suggests, for example, that Dr. Sternberg lost his job at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History because of intellectual discrimination but neglects to inform us that he was actually not an employee but rather an unpaid research associate who had completed his three-year term.

Mixing physical apples and metaphysical oranges at every turn “Expelled” is an unprincipled propaganda piece that insults believers and nonbelievers alike. In its fudging, eliding and refusal to define terms, the movie proves that the only expulsion here is of reason itself.

Thanks to the producers, the conflation of Christianity with dishonesty and sleaze will continue for a long time. Thanks, guys.

Friday, April 18, 2008

More deep thoughts from Richard Dawkins:
Entities capable of designing anything, whether they be human engineers or interstellar aliens, must be complex -- and therefore, statistically improbable.
Actually, these are the same 'deep' thoughts we've heard before. Bill Vallicella was on the case, but is worth revisiting.

1. The explanandum, that which is to be explained, is organized complexity as such.
2. God is at least as complex as that which is to be explained.
3. Any 'explanation' that invokes a supernatural designer explains "precisely nothing, for it leaves unexplained the origin of the Designer." One cannot be said to have explained organized complexity as such if one postulates an unexplained explainer that is at least as complex as any being among the explananda.
4. If the response to the foregoing is that 'God was always there,' then one could just as well say that 'DNA was always there' and be done with the matter.

Now I may be dense, but I cannot see that this is an argument that any theist should lose sleep over.

Why should anyone accept premise (1)? Why should anyone accept that organized complexity as such needs explaining? A plausible principle is that, if x explains y, then x is not identical to y: Nothing explains itself. This is especially clear if the explanation is causal. For it seems self-evident that nothing can cause itself. (I interpret causa sui privatively, not positively: I take it to mean 'not caused by another' and not 'self-caused.') Now if nothing can explain itself, and if organized complexity is to be explained, then some of the organized complexity must remain unexplained, that portion residing in the ultimate explainer. It follows that one cannot reasonably demand that all organized complexity be explained. If this is right, then it is no objection to God to say that his complexity — assuming he is complex — has no explanation. For if one wants an ultimate explanation, then one must accept an entity whose own existence and complexity has no explanation in terms of something distinct from it.

As Bill goes on, this kind of philosophizing makes no impression on fundie materialists. By definition, they simply want to deny, not discuss.

It seems to me that we have a stand-off. We have two diametrically opposed positions each of which is rationally defensible. The theist interprets the order (organized complexity) and existence of nature as deriving from a transcendent mind-like Source, an intelligent, providential ground of finite being and its intelligibility. On this approach it makes no sense to try to explain all being and all organized complexity in terms of simpler and simpler, stupider and stupider, material elements. The theist finds in himself consciousness, self-consciousness, intentionality, purposiveness, moral awareness, aesthetic sensitivity, etc., and he cannot for the life of him understand how any of this can be made sense of in material terms. So he interprets what he finds in himself as a key to the ultimate makeup of the world. The naturalist, of course, adopting a ruthlessly third-personal point of view, will have none of this. For him, there is no explanation apart from materialist explanation, and what cannot be reduced to this form of explanation must be simply denied. [emphasis mine]

But on the other hand, since Dawkins keeps repeating the same point over and over again, maybe discussion is possible.

Some day.
Rod Dreher once again sums it up nicely:

I had to sit back and read this three times for its full impact to sink in, and to deal with the emotions it brings forth. From the Boston Globe:

"I asked him to forgive me for hating his church and hating him," said Olan Horne, 48, of Lowell, who gave the pope a picture of himself as a 9-year-old boy, just before the Rev. Joseph E. Birmingham started molesting him. "He said, 'My English isn't good, but I want you to know that I can understand you, and I think I can understand your sorrow.' "
This is what so many have been waiting for, for so long. Not even John Paul, for all his courage and charity, could bring himself to do this.
Indeed. A great play in the annals of baseball.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Good one.

These so-called producers are turning out to be even dumber than I thought:
With the revelation that the producers of Expelled did not obtain permission to use a short segment of John Lennon’s song “Imagine”. Given that they reportedly used the snippet about “imagine there’s no religion” with various nasty visual content from Communist China, it seems unlikely that they will manage to work out a deal with Ono to license the song at this point. Premise Media (PM) is arguing that the snippet meets the requirements for a “fair use” exclusion, or that they have an “educational” movie, or whatever in order to set aside the issue.
For the Record:
Correction: Because of a columnist's habitual laziness and ignorance, and a cowardly editorial attitude toward said columnist, a column that ran over two weeks ago was incorrect in stating that the corpse of Humphrey Bogart watched the L.A. Dodgers in the Coliseum. Bogart was comfortably interred at Forest Lawn Memorial Park.
Rod Dreher wishes the Pope had been a little less diplomatic with the bishops. I find it hard to disagree with him. The anger up here in Boston, for example, is still quite palpable. I know Rod has made more than a few enemies among Catholic writers and bloggers with his coverage of the scandal, and was so disgusted in the end by it all that he left the Catholic Church. But for my money, it took a lot of guts for him to report what he found.
When scientists screw up philosophy

Siris takes Larry Krauss to the woodshed over yet another silly misreading of Thomas Aquinas:
Every scholar who deals with historical issues always runs across weird stories that float around about what people thought or said or did way back then; and this provides a pretty good little instance of how this happens. Thomas Aquinas, in a very early work (the Supplement to the Summa Theologiae is just passages from his early Commentary on the Sentences reorganized after his death to fill in the gap at the end of the unfinished Summa), notes down, in passing, an argument to the effect that the resurrected won't need to eat because one needs to eat only to replace what's lost and to grow, comestio [ordinatur] ad restaurationem deperditi, et ad augmentum quantitatis. D'Israeli comes along much later and glosses this Aquinas gravely debating whether there is excrement in Paradise. (I suspect he had it at secondhand.) Krauss, reading D'Israeli, transmogrifies it into whether there's excrement in Heaven, which is somehow related to the noncorporeality of angels. And now there will be someone who will read it and take it at face value, and garble it further; and no doubt there will be someone at some point in the future claiming that Thomas Aquinas debates whether noncorporeal angels excrete in Heaven.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Physicist David Heddle does us all a favor by nicely summing up why the Discovery Institute and its minions should be shunned by Christians everywhere:

  1. Deception (The Wedge Strategy.)

  2. Evangelism by deception (Even worse, also the Wedge Strategy and document.)

  3. Unsupported claims of imminent victory, also known as false prophecy.

  4. Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, by ungracious press release.

  5. Collaboration in the "culture wars" with heretics.

  6. Bizarre and silly pretenses of legal expertise, shown to be so much hot air by subsequent...

  7. Sir-Robinining.

  8. Juvenile, flatulence-laden (and then deskunked) animations mocking a federal judge.

  9. Publishing, in a tizzy fit, the names, addresses and home phone numbers of the Baylor Board of Regents. (Due to the Potemkin character of the Uncommon Descent web site, the link no longer exists.)

  10. Resource wasting, mean-spirited, childish, unseemly referrals to Homeland Security.

  11. Fostering an unbiblical science vs. faith false dichotomy.

  12. Fostering an atmosphere of whining, Christian victimhood.

He goes on: "Anecdotally, I tell anyone who cares to ask either at the national lab I work at or at my university where I teach physics that I think the universe was intelligently designed by God. In fact, I have had many such discussions. I have never endured any adverse consequence. Of course, I don’t ever state that ID is science, because it isn’t. And I don’t ever state that my ID related writings should be part of my professional evaluation—because they aren’t science. The last thing I would want is for my scientific evaluation to be partly based on things I have written about ID. Or my theological writings in general, of which the ID writings are a proper subset. And I don’t state that I should be allowed to put my ID views in the physics curriculum. Which would be dumb, because they are not science. And I don't believe that the university should be required, in some misuse of the concept of academic freedom, to host my writings on its server."

Well said.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Daniel Holz was one of those students lucky enough to work with John Archibald Wheeler:

For two years I sat at the feet of the master, and I absorbed as much as I could. I learned about science, and about life. Wheeler had broad interests. We would often discuss biology, or history, or poetry. Over the ensuing years we kept in touch. We collaborated together on Wheeler’s last published paper.

Yesterday I spent a couple of hours at Wheeler’s bedside. I tried to say thank you. But it was impossible to convey how much he means to me, and how grateful I am to him. In that moment when I crossed the threshold to his office, I was embarking on a new path. I am still on that path, and every day I am grateful to him for showing me the way.

John Wheeler died this morning.


Thursday, April 10, 2008

Here goes...

I'm posting to YouTube a selection from a new children's book I've written. While I'm submitting this to publishers through the usual channels, I wanted to bring this to life now...while my children are still young enough to appreciate it.

I hope yours are too. If you like what you see and hear--the superb illustrations are by Bethany Gully and the text beautifully narrated by Eileen Stevens--then I hope you visit the book's official site and leave me your feedback. We get enough parents and kids excited, who knows, we won't need to come to a publisher. Perhaps they will come to us.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

I've blogged before about the dishonesty behind the Expelled movie with Ben Stein. As Austringer notes, it must really suck if Fox News pans it:

Directed by one Nathan Frankowski, "Expelled" is a sloppy, all-over-the-place, poorly made (and not just a little boring) "expose" of the scientific community. It’s not very exciting. But it does show that Stein, who’s carved out a career selling eye drops in commercials and amusing us on sitcoms, is either completely nuts or so avaricious that he’s abandoned all good sense to make a buck.

To wit: Stein, Frankowski and pals say in "Expelled" that perfectly good scientists and educators are being stigmatized for wanting to teach their students creationism and "intelligent design" — in other words, junk science — in addition to or instead of conventionally accepted Darwinism. You see, Stein, like some other celebrities, finally has shown his true colors and they aren’t so pretty.

I won't be lining up to see a fake documentary juxtaposing footage of Nazis alongside cuts of PZ Myers and company lifted out of context by second rate video producers who have to lie to their on-screen subjects in order to get them to participate.

I don't mind saying, with over 20 years experience producing, mostly for the education market--that what's truly pathetic is these jerks couldn't make the effort to find real scientists and philosophers to participate and engage with the non-theists in the program they're so frightened of. No, it was easier to just lie.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Will Saletan with a sobering look at the new trend of sex selection in pre-natal screening:
If you think of yourself as a techno-progressive—someone who believes, as Barack Obama does, that "maximizing the power of technology" will help fix everything from energy to the environment to health care—the increase in sex selection should give you pause. Technology can facilitate regression as easily as it facilitates progress. But if you think of yourself as a pro-life conservative, the data should humble you, too. In the populations in which it has increased, sex selection isn't a newfangled perversion. It's a custom, and a patriarchal one at that. If the sex-selection story teaches us all to be a bit more skeptical of both tradition and technology, that'll be real progress.

Friday, April 04, 2008

The Boskone Panel I was on in February with Br. Guy Consolmagno and Mike Flynn is now viewable online here. Description from the program schedule: What happened in the Middle Ages which lead to the rise of modern science? Why did it happen first in Europe and not elsewhere? How did science grow if the Middle Ages were really an "age of faith" without reason?

Scroll down to #25 at the bottom of the page. It's in Real Player format, which I'm not a huge fan of, but Richard Amirault who shot and encoded it clearly knows his tools. Quality is excellent.
(Now, if I'd just learn to stop slouching ...)

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

The Common Ancestry Two-Step
Darwin Catholic had an interesting post a few days back on Catholics and Evolution. Of course, the general view has always been that the Church is accepting of the theory (in fact, the Catholic Encyclopedia as far back as 1909 states this).

This is a far cry from most evangelical branches of Protestantism that reject it outright in favor of Biblical literalism. (Actually, they're not alone, there are some Catholic organizations selling this kool aid as well, but I will refrain from sending them any traffic.)

But based on what I've read on blogs ---including some of the worst science reporting in the mainstream conservative journals whenever it comes to evolution---the issue apparently is not as clear cut as it seems.

A number of Catholics, for example, stake a 'middle' position on evolution, basically claiming to accept common ancestry, while maintaining a skeptical view of the mechanisms of evolution: meaning genetic variation, genetic drift, recombination, etc., in combination with natural selection.

This may sound reasonable, at first-- but it seems to me that there is a disconnect here: a disconnect that must assume a fundamental lack of understanding of precisely what biologists mean by the term, common ancestry. At the risk of belaboring the obvious, it means more than just agreeing that, yeah, a lot of animals look related, the more recent ones do look more complex, etc: it means accepting the underlying reasons why--and these underlying reasons cannot be dissociated from variation and natural selection except by the most willful mental compartmentalization (or intellectual dishonesty if you're a paid ID flack). Herein a rather lengthy aside from Douglas Theobald:

Even Aristotle discussed the peculiar vestigial eyes of moles in the fourth century B.C. in De animalibus historiae (lib. I cap. IX), in which he identified them as "stunted in development" and "eyes not in the full sense".

As these individuals noted, vestiges can be especially puzzling features of organisms, since these "hypocritical" structures profess something that they do not do—they clearly appear designed for a certain function which they do not perform. However, common descent provides a scientific explanation for these peculiar structures. Existing species have different structures and perform different functions. If all living organisms descended from a common ancestor, then both functions and structures necessarily have been gained and lost in each lineage during macroevolutionary history. Therefore, from common descent and the constraint of gradualism, we predict that many organisms should retain vestigial structures as structural remnants of lost functions. Note that the exact evolutionary mechanism which created a vestigial structure is irrelevant as long as the mechanism is a gradual one.


[Figure2.1.2 (flightless weevil, apterocyclus_honolulensis)] [Figure2.1.2 (vestigial dandelion] [Figure2.1.2 (vestigial dandelion pollen)]

Figure 2.1.2. Various organisms displaying vestigial characters. From top to bottom: A. Apterocyclus honolulensis, a flightless weevil. The black wing covers cannot open, as they are fused, yet underneath are perfectly formed beetle wings. B. The vestigial flower of Taraxacum officinale, the common dandelion. C. A vestigial pollen grain from the dandelion.

There are many examples of rudimentary and nonfunctional vestigial characters carried by organisms, and these can very often be explained in terms of evolutionary histories. For example, from independent phylogenetic evidence, snakes are known to be the descendants of four-legged reptiles. Most pythons (which are legless snakes) carry vestigial pelvises hidden beneath their skin (Cohn 2001; Cohn and Tickle 1999). The vestigial pelvis in pythons is not attached to vertebrae (as is the normal case in most vertebrates), and it simply floats in the abdominal cavity. Some lizards carry rudimentary, vestigial legs underneath their skin, undetectable from the outside (Raynaud and Kan 1992).

Many cave dwelling animals, such as the fish Astyanax mexicanus (the Mexican tetra) and the salamander species Typhlotriton spelaeus and Proteus anguinus, are blind yet have rudimentary, vestigial eyes (Besharse and Brandon 1976; Durand et al. 1993; Jeffery 2001; Kos et al. 2001). The eyes of the Mexican tetra have a lens, a degenerate retina, a degenerate optic nerve, and a sclera, even though the tetra cannot see (Jeffery 2001). The blind salamanders have eyes with retinas and lenses, yet the eyelids grow over the eye, sealing them from outside light (Durand et al. 1993; Kos et al. 2001).

Dandelions reproduce without fertilization (a condition known as apomixis), yet they retain flowers and produce pollen (both are sexual organs normally used for sexual fertilization) (Mes et al. 2002). Flowers and pollen are thus useless characters for dandelions in terms of sexual reproduction.

There are many examples of flightless beetles (such as the weevils of the genus Lucanidae) which retain perfectly formed wings housed underneath fused wing covers. All of these examples can be explained in terms of the beneficial functions and structures of the organisms' predicted ancestors (Futuyma 1998, pp. 122-123).

The ancestors of humans are known to have been herbivorous, and molar teeth are required for chewing and grinding plant material. Over 90% of all adult humans develop third molars (otherwise known as wisdom teeth). Usually these teeth never erupt from the gums, and in one third of all individuals they are malformed and impacted (Hattab et al. 1995; Schersten et al. 1989). These useless teeth can cause significant pain, increased risk for injury, and may result in illness and even death (Litonjua 1996; Obiechina et al. 2001; Rakprasitkul 2001; Tevepaugh and Dodson 1995).

Natural selection is really what defined Darwin's breakthrough. Saying you accept common ancestry but not genetic variation and natural selection, is akin to saying, "Yes, of course your grandfather is related to you, and of course you share the same genes. Who would deny that? were adopted."

In short, to maintain that common ancestry is true, without accepting the mechanisms of evolution, by which the lineages are explained, strikes me as incoherent.

But that seems to be the position many Christians have staked out.

Steve Matheson shared some thoughts on why: "The roots of this thing are pretty deep, and the error is very seductive. Evolution is targeted for Christian opposition, uniquely among major biological theories, because it's been characterized as the final refutation of divine action in the world. This is ludicrous, of course, but combine it with the modern Christian's typical struggle with what it means to acknowledge the supernatural and/or the transcendent, and you have what looks like a frontal assault on the divine. Add to the mix the fact that evolution is a theory of the past, necessarily shrouded in a certain amount of mystery, and you have a perfect storm. Note that I haven't even mentioned concerns about the biblical narrative of creation."
My kids are going to love this.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Now that the 2008 Baseball Season is officially beginning, Steve Matheson, biologist, Shakespeare lover and die-hard Red Sox fan, weighs in with some thoughts on hitting streaks, randomness, and miracles.

What more could anyone want? Here's to the 2008 season.
John Wilkins has some April Fool's Fun with the "No Darwin, No Hitler" crowd.